Emotionally, how do I see myself through the settling of Mom's estate?

3 answers | Last updated: Oct 11, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I feel that I cannot handle much more. I lost my 17 yr old son in 1993 in an auto accident - wrong place wrong time - not his fault. I was put on antidepressents for five years. I had 5 deaths in the family in 9 months - my son was second.

Now, after my brother and I took care of Mom "Home Health Care" during the last month of her life - I knew the symptoms and was put back on antidepressents months prior. My brother was Mom's Executor - I lost him unexpectedly (age 49) before Mom's Estate was closed. We have an older sibling that "couldn't help because it didn't fit into her social calendar". She sued my brother and when she found out he had to reschedule a court hearing because of cancer surgery, I became named in the lawsuit as well.

I fired my attorney when I discovered a document was "altered" with my signature - thankfully he confessed to my new attorney that "all others knew". The Plaintiff's attorney turned it in to the Courts. The Judge knew what was going on. The other two parties had 12 pages to initial and date - I had one page (page 8 of 12). We were in court for 5 years. I started having panic attacks (never had before) when I was named in the lawsuit with 10 counts of fraud. The "evidence" was "they were scheming" - the older sibling thought we took Mom to all of her financial institutes and had things changed. That was all done in 1995 after Dad passed 6 months after my son (Jan 1994).

Now, I have a malpractice attorney who is "doing cartwheels" because my records are so organized. Normally they ask for 40% - he said my records were so easy to follow, I had every transcript of every Court hearing, all the letters, emails, etc. that he was only going to ask for 30%. I even have all of Mom's original bank statements - she had me organize and list so when my brother arrived, we could all discuss everything. We had this discussion before, but now it was for real.

I'm really having difficulties is doing the Bar Complaints. The first one on the "Court Appointed Administrator" is over 750 pages - 30 pages is the Complaint form (2 pages) and "Details of your Complaint". The 700+ pages is all the evidence. The Bar will give the attorney 10 days to respond.

How can I "push" myself through all of this knowing it is best for Mom's Estate, my promise to her and my brother that Mom's wishes in her Will will be done as she wanted them? My husband has been no help whatsoever. After the first year, he didn't want to "hear any more about it". That was 2006. Last year (on the 29th of this month), we seperated. He now has his own apartment but divorce has not been brought up. I don't believe in divorce. We have been married since one month before graduating high school. No, I was not pregnant - he was afraid after high school - knowing me - I'd be off and going in my own world and he was afraid he "wouldn't be able to find me". We have been married 36+ years. He ownes his own business and is a workalcholic. My physchiatrist has already had me file for Social Security disability because my concentration level is gone. I see him once a month, sometimes more. I also see a therapist.

Any suggestions on how I can complete this task? I have papers all over the place, kitchen table and a banquet table along with the filing boxes. It just makes me so depressed "reliving" all the things that happened! And it makes me so sad because I have yet to be able to grieve for my mother and brother.

Thank you so very much - I'm eagerly awaiting your reply.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

It sounds as if you're in one of those times when there are so many difficult things going on at once that you simply can't do them all on your own. You need to get others to pitch in and help.

You already have some good help in your court, so maybe you can lean on them a little more heavily.

It was great to see you say that you know and believe that pursuing that legal action is a part of what your mother would have wanted. That thought alone should help give you some strength to go on. But no one should have to wade through 700+ pages of legal documents alone. Is the malpractice attorney you hired also helping you with the bar complaint? If not, perhaps he could give you some help or tips about what you absolutely need to do and what you can skim through and ignore. You seem like the thorough type"”and sometimes, when dealing with legal matters, it can actually be counterproductive to include too many details.

If the malpractice attorney can't or won't help, consider contacting the state bar. Most have advisors on hand for phone consultations who will be willing to help you through the basics of filing the complaint.

And a bit of practical information: While your thoroughness and organization skills have certainly been a help to you throughout your life"”including now"”it must feel very disorienting to have all those piles of papers about as persistent reminders of all this difficulty. Find a confined place to store them: in a closet or a corner of a room so that they're out of your constant eyeview. If the lawyer is helping handle the matter, he may also be willing to store the documents for you.

Great that you're getting good help from that psychiatrist. Perhaps he or she could also recommend a good local group that focuses on dealing with grief. Living through five deaths in such a short time is tough indeed"”and many people find the focus of a group or grief therapist is very helpful.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

I finally got the first Bar Complaint out today! Hurray!! I had left all 6 file folder boxes with my attorney so all of this had to be composed from memory and my computer! What a relief to have the 1st one done - 2 more to go! The 1st one is on the Court Appointed Administrator who would never respond to my emails or letters regardless of the facts. It became so big because of the lack of professionalism - my brother's attorney put in a "Proof of Claim" saying "not paid for final invoices" where in my Mom's checkbook register are the checks written along with the bank statements showing the checks had cleared! Why the Administrator didn't "check things out" is beyond believe! That's only one situation. There were so many in the 5 years we were in Court.

Then we get the "Recusal Order" from the Judge - can you believe this case was assigned back to the Judge that heard the first case?! He even misled the Court in his Order! Unbelievable! My attorney has been very supportive and understanding of the ordeal I was going through and my husband never even read it once! I finally feel stronger accomplishing the first one - to me, it had to be complete, unquestionable in regards to showing the Bar Association all of the "goings on behind my back" that these attorneys did to my Mother's Estate. It was a promised both my brother and I made to our Mom - her wishes in her Will will be done! They are not done yet, but I'm getting there! Along with a couple of "meltdowns" along the way - I still cannot understand why my husband chose this time to decide he "didn't like my personality or demeanor any more". I still believe he is going through a "middle life crisis" because I seriously doubt anyone else is in his life. He doesn't have the time! We still talk occassionally, it has almost been a year.

Life just isn't what we plan when we are younger - nor do we believe something like this was ever going to happen! My Mother gave me a few words of wisdom before she passed (she must have known what I was going to be up against). Her 1st bit of wisdom - "Find some Joy in today, if you can't find it - Make It!" The 2nd one was - "Stay busy and Stay Strong" - which is so hard to do at times! I remember all the things she was going through at the time of the 5 deaths in 9 months - I pull my strength from her. She was a great Mom, friend, and best listener - never gave advice unless you asked her! Same with my brother - how I miss him as well. Just knowing Mom and Dad along with my brother and most especially my son are together waiting for me makes me realize I have to finish the job I was put here to do before I can join them!!

Thank you for you kind words of wisdom as well. It does help! I am now putting away as much as possible - but still have to get the other two complaints done - which won't be near the volume as the first. The first was on the one that was supposed to be responsible for going by Mom's Will - I don't even think he read it!

Mary b answered...

Sounds like you're making good progress. Don't forget to find a good support group. Ask around. People who know where this info is are: nursing homes, hopice groups, hospitals, churches. Even if you can't find a support group that focuses on the grief of loss, try to find a women's Bible study or prayer group to give you a sense of comfort and hope. You're doing a great job. But you still need all the help you can get.